Nightly News | May 17, 2011
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: now, following the opening of floodgates designed to do just that, flood one area to spare another. There's still a lot of water on the way, and high water will be with us for weeks. Water will be straining against those levees and walls for some time. The Mississippi River is changing as the flooding is rearranging life on land and overrunning parts of the bayou. The experts now tell us the impact from these floods could go as high as $2 billion; a big hit for industries like catfish, cotton, corn, wheat, beans, rice, the shipping industry that relies on the river as a central artery . We want to start off again tonight with NBC 's Anne Thompson . She's in Melville , Louisiana . Hey, Anne , good evening.
ANNE THOMPSON reporting: Good evening, Brian . These waters are the superhighway of commerce, and the flood is causing a traffic jam, and that's costing money. As the swollen Mississippi thunders south, high water forces the closing of the river to barge traffic at Natchez , Mississippi . The Coast Guard wants to reduce the water pressure on the levees, but in doing so it will increase pressure on the economy. The Mississippi is a crucial economic artery, the barges carrying the ingredients that nourish and power America and the world.
Mr. JOHN MICHAEL RILEY ; It's not going to mean the end of barges going through, but it's definitely going to put a delay there. And anytime you have delays, there's cost incurred.
THOMPSON: Costs are already climbing downriver in Louisiana . Nine of the Terrell River Service 's 10 barges are tied up. High waters closed the locks they use to get to the Mississippi and made the Atchafalaya River unsafe to navigate. Operations manager Billy Martin says the idle barges mean a loss of some $54,000 each day they don't work. How long can you go on without running your boats?
Mr. BILLY MARTIN: I don't know. We need those boats to be running as soon as possible.
Mr. FRED MONTGOMERY: Until they tell us we've got to go, we're not going anywhere.
THOMPSON: In the Morganza Spillway the water may not be rising as fast as expected, but Fred Montgomery says it is rising over acres of farm land.
Mr. MONTGOMERY: Right down the road we got another 600.
THOMPSON: And it's all underwater?
Mr. MONTGOMERY: Everything's underwater.
THOMPSON: The gates of the Morganza opened Saturday and flooded these fields, part of the projected $300 million Louisiana farmers will lose.
Mr. MONTGOMERY: This is a spillway. This is what it's meant to do, and this is what it's going to do.
Mr. BRADLEY GRIMMET: I'm waiting on the water.
THOMPSON: Bradley Grimmet grows corn and soybeans on 1700 acres in the spillway. But with no soybeans planted, he says the flood has already cost him $200,000 and could get worse.
Mr. GRIMMET: Whatever the water does controls what will happen to us, you know? It -- but we stand to lose everything, actually.
THOMPSON: Now, Bradley Grimmet is not alone. Economists say that Americans could pay higher food prices because of the flood, but it's the people here that may pay the highest price of all. Brian :
WILLIAMS: Anne Thompson starting us off in Louisiana . Could not be a sadder story for so many folks down there. Anne ,